Testing the Limits

/ February 2, 2009 at 5:00 AM

In one of his last acts as director of the Missile Defense Agency last November, Lt. Gen. Trey Obering (now retired) signed out a new testing plan for the agency. We recently got hold of the plan, which Obering signed Nov. 21.

The new plan cancels out what had been the agency's testing roadmap that had been in place since March 2005. In response to questions posed by InsideDefense.com, MDA said the change was made “to reflect the natural evolution of the agency's testing policy, which has occurred with the maturation of the ((ballistic missile defense)) system.”

The document makes it clear that the MDA director -- now Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly -- is fully in charge of agency testing. All testing issues and decisions flow through him. The new policy, though, sets up a three-headed body consisting of a deputy for test, a deputy for engineering and a mission director to shepherd each test through five different stages: test event requirements phase; test event planning and design phase; test event readiness phase; test event execution phase; and test event analysis and evaluation phase.

MDA tells us the deputy for test is Air Force Maj. Gen. Chris Anzalone. The new deputy for engineering is Keith Englander. O'Reilly will appoint a mission director for specific tests. Interestingly, the deputy for test is in charge of only the test event and planning phase. The deputy for engineering is in charge of the requirements phase (the first phase in the process) and the analysis and evaluation phase (the final phase). The mission director is in charge of the readiness phase (the third of the five phases).

Despite the title, the deputy for test assumes a supporting role during four of the five phases, MDA tells us. 

Exceptions are made for test events in which the (deputy) for test is also the mission director. For these tests, the (deputy) for test has the primary responsibility for the test event, planning and design phase, the test event readiness phase and the test event execution phase.

 Philip Coyle was in charge of the Pentagon independent operational testing office during the Clinton administration. He told us the new MDA testing organization looks “very flat” and has everything running through O'Reilly. 

"This puts the director in the position of managing every little detail, and nearly every decision of any consequence ends up having to go to the director," he says. "The Missile Defense Agency is too large for that."

Coyle has some questions about the deputy for test/engineering/mission director setup, too.

I understand that MDA tests can be quite expensive, but breaking each one into five parts and then having a troika of three deputies manage each of those five parts separately from the others is unnecessarily complicated. Yes, I'm sure MDA will tell you that those three managers in the troika must coordinate, and let's hope they do because otherwise this new organization will be dysfunctional.

 MDA told us that every test carried out since the new policy was signed has been done so under the new setup: “Some tailoring was accomplished to ensure continuity and efficiency of work that was already in progress.”

-- Thomas Duffy

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